The N.C. Partnership for Children is holding a Hold the Line Virtual Advocacy Day on Tuesday with the hopes of convincing state lawmakers that funding for early childhood programs shouldn't be eliminated even in a tough budget year.
The partnership, the non-profit that leads Smart Start, is encouraging social media-savvy bloggers, Tweeters and Facebookers to blog, tweet and post about why programs and services providing early education and care for young kids are important to them.
The campaign is timely. State legislators are back in session this week. And a major issue before them is the state's budget and how they'll close an $800 million budget gap.
"For nearly a decade, a lot of programs that provide services for young children have been cut," said Vivian Musyk, communications and marketing coordinator for the partnership. "They're going to have to make some tough decisions. We really want everybody who cares about services for children to raise their voices now and to let them know this is not the place to cut. Investments in children are really investments in our society as a whole."
Among recent cuts across the state:
- In Henderson County, the Infant Toddler Initiative was eliminated, affecting 70 babies at 13 child care centers. The program provided grants ranging from $60 to $500 per month to 4- and 5-star child care centers to offset some of the costs of infant care. Infant care can be expensive and slots for infants in child care centers are often limited, making it difficult for families to find affordable care in convenient locations. The average cost of infant care in Henderson County is nearly $8,000 a year.
- In Avery County, fewer children are getting the dental care because the local Smart Start partnership had to eliminate some of the transportation services it provided for families that have no other means of getting to the dentist.
"I think a lot of people may not directly get these services, but they want them in the community," Musyk said.
If you want to get involved, the partnership has posted all kinds of ideas on their own blog, from posting a video about the importance of these services to blogging about your own experience with early childhood programs. Click here for more information.
The partnership also is collecting videos featuring people talking about the importance of early childhood programs. Just post it on YouTube and email the link to Tracy Zimmerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Musyk said the virtual campaign should be an effective way to get across the message, especially since so many people these days are blogging, tweeting and posting anyway - including legislators.
"Some of them are really part of this social networking and they're active on it," she said. "For those who aren't, we'll let them know what's going on."